George Strait’s new single–co-written with his frequent collaborator Dean Dillon–is more than just a tip of the hat to Mexico’s finest export, tequila. “Código” has a laid-back Jimmy Buffett vibe, and is as much about the culture and lifestyle of the area around Jalisco, Mexico where most tequilas are made as it is about what’s actually in the bottle.
But that’s not the only thing that hooked Strait on the song. In fact, the singer is an investor in the Código 1530 brand of tequila, a relationship born of sipping the spirit during rounds of golf with friends at his vacation property near Los Cabos. After purchasing the tequila by the barrel from a small family-owned distillery in the tiny pueblo of Amatitán in the lowlands of Los Bajos, Strait and his partners decided to just buy the whole operation and work with the family to produce tequila on a larger commercial scale.
So now that you’ve heard the song you’re probably wondering: how’s the tequila? In a word, exceptional. Código actually produces five different expressions of tequila, all made from blue agave that is allowed to mature in the field longer than the plants that most huge distilleries use to make their tequilas. If you think of it, tequila is sort of the opposite of American whiskey in that corn, the main raw material in whiskey production, only takes a season to grow, but the spirits takes years in a barrel before it’s ready to drink. For tequila, most varieties only take from three to 18 months in oak to fully mature, but you have to wait a lot longer for agave to be ready for harvest.
The result of this extra attention to the plants in the fields for seven to 10 years means that the agave creates a much more nuanced tequila. Even Código’s least expensive product, their unaged Blanco that nevers sees any oak at all, exhibits complex earthy and citrusy characteristics thanks to the quality of the agave. Perfect as the base of a grapefruit-based Paloma cocktail, Blanco is absolutely refined enough to sip straight.
Strait also has connections to the wine industry and was instrumental in helping to source the the finest Napa Cabernet French White Oak barrels used to age Código’s Reposado, a beautiful straw-hued tequila aged in those casks for six months before bottling. The time in oak contributes lovely toasted caramel and vanilla aromas and flavors to this outstanding tequila.
If you aged the Reposado an extra year, like Código does, you’d end up with an Añejo tequila, the oldest variety that most other producers ever release. Código’s Añejo is indeed top-of-the-line, wonderfully expressive and complex with notes of spice and vanilla that don’t completely mask the citrus elements of the base agave.
But Código is not like those other tequila producers; they go a step further with their unique Extra Añejo tequila that they call Origen. This tequila is not made for shooting or mixing in a Margarita. It is a truly special sipper that would go great with a fine cigar or enjoyed slightly warmed in a snifter like an elegant cognac. The fact that these tequilas are aged in barrels that previously held wine instead of whiskey like most tequilas means that the essence of the agave comes through without being overpowered by the oak after years in repose. Try a sip of Origen along with an orange slice sprinkled with a pinch of cinnamon for a high class version of the old tequila/salt/lime combo.
Perhaps the most unique product in the Código portfolio is their Rosa, basically the same product as Blanco except that it spends a month in uncharred Napa Cabernet French White Oak barrels. Because the barrels have not been charred, the tequila comes in more direct contact with the the wine that has been left behind soaked into the walls of the barrel staves. This contributes a lovely pink hue to the tequila and just a bit of vanilla from the oak without hiding the essence of the agave.
Now just imagine yourself kicking back, listening to George Strait sing “Código” while sipping on some fine tequila and let yourself be transported to the warm beaches of Mexico. Even better than imagining it, buy a bottle and do it!